On a recent trip to Luxor in November 2021, it was fascinating to see the excavations of the ancient Memorial Temple of Amenhotep III. It’s possible to walk along the road behind the famous Colossi of Memnon and look across the excavation site. A few statues have been found and reconstructed. Others remain shattered or in blocks awaiting re-assembly.
Amenhotep III (the ‘Magnificent’) ruled in the mid-18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, at the height of Egypt’s empire period. His Memorial Temple dates from circa 1350 BCE. When originally built, it was the largest temple structure of its kind. Even the later mortuary temples of Ramses II (the Ramesseum) and Ramses III (Medinet Habu) could not compete for size. When Amenhotep III was constructing his mortuary temple, even Karnak Temple was smaller.
People ask why so little now remains of this once gargantuan temple. Firstly, it seems the temple was very badly damaged in an earthquake that shook the Theban mortuary area in circa 1200 BCE. Huge fissures opened in the ground apparently causing complete statues to tumble into them. Another devastating earthquake occurred in circa 27 BCE. These account for much of the destruction. But it is also the case that successive pharaohs had no compunction about dismantling the structures of former rulers and re-using their stones in the construction of their own monuments. It seems Amenhotep’s memorial temple may have been particularly targeted as a quarry for future generations of builders.
All of this makes it especially fascinating to witness the modern excavation work and see the once mighty temple re-emerging from the sands of time.
In this short video clip, you can see the excavation site as it looks in late-2021 (with my apologies for the traffic noise !)
I have been visiting Egypt for a number of years. The photographs below show the Colossi of Memnon, originally with nothing but farmland behind them , then cordoned off and, more recently, with the excavation work in progress.
I very much hope that, on my next trip, it will be possible to see even more progress…